Chocolate through the ages

It's strange how history does things. Most of the great chocolate manufacturers are European, and yet chocolate is American in its origin. Yes, the Aztecs were fond of it. They consumed it mainly in a hot beverage appreciated for its medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities.

Since 4000 BC, cacao trees and indigenous peaples have lived on good terms with each other in the virgin forests of Yucutan and Guatemala. Ih these countries, where the cacao tree grows wild, the people of that era ate only the fruit pulp and not the beans. That's normal since, in its natural state, this whiteish pulp is deliciously tart in flavor, while the beans have a sharp bitter taste.

We will never know who the clever Indian was that one day had the idea to roast the almond-shaped beans discovering in the process a delightful aroma until then unknown. "If it smells good, it must be good". And with his first bite came a revolution : the world of food would never be the same. In its earliest days, the cacao bean acted as an indigneous alternative to money. A pumpkin, for example, was worth four beans, and a woman for the night, ten beans, the sameprice as a rabbit...

Once the beans had suffered wear in a number of exchanges, they were eaten!

The virtues of chocolate

«If chocolate were bad, it would have lost its appeal a long time ago.»
- Edouard de Pomiane(1875-1964). French doctor and gourmet

  1. Chocolate give muscle tone : TRUE

    Nutritionists claim without reserve that chocolate is not only a candy, but also a food endowed with exceptional nutritional qualities. With its 800 componets discovered so far, it is beneficial to the organism for more that one reason, a tonic for both body and soul.

  2. Chocolate causes liver attacks : FALSE

    The liver copes with it perfectly: research done under the supervision of Professor Gounelle de Pontanel has demonstrated this. Administered in high doses to people suffering from hepatitis, it caused them not the slightest difficulty and biological tests did not show any harmful effects on the hepatitis carrying cells.

  3. Chocolate produces weight gain : TRUS and FALSE

    First of all, this question is based on false pretenses for our diet is not based on chocolate. Even in the rare cases where it would have a tendency to become the basis, it has been noted, all things being equal, the chocoholics are not any fatter than other people. If we really had to debate the question, the first argument of any significance in favour of chocolate would be to blaeme the rest of our diet which is too rich in sugars and fats : "It's not it, it's them"...

  4. Chocolate causes cholesterol problems : FALSE

    - Cocoa, like almost every vegetable substance does not contain cholesterol. Howeber, be careful here : milk chocolate, because of its milk content, does contain cholesterol.
    - Its natural elements hinder the absorption of cholesterol from other foods.
    - Its fats cause a lowering of the blood cholesterol level and incease the "good cholesterol" that protects the arteries. In fact, cacao provides (afeter assimilation) 72% of unsaturated fatty acids - like aleic acid for example - that ower the level of cholesterol and that clean the arteries. In addition, it only contains 20% of saturated fatty acids that play an opposite role

  5. Chocolate causes constipation : FALSE

    Since it is a fibreless food with no waste, it was long believed to cause constipation. On the contrary, radiologist have described its role as an accelerator of peristalsis. In fact, its tannins stimulate the contraction of the smooth muscular fibres in the small intestine. And what's more, its fats favor the secretion of bile which insures proper functioning of the intestines.

  6. Chocolate creates cavities : FALSE

    In fact the very opposite is the case as long as it is not too sweet. Recent studies have shown that chocolate contains three types of substances that work to prevent cavities : the tainins inhibit the development of plaque which is caused by bacteria. As fro phosphates (200 mg/100 g) and fluoride, everyone knows of their preventive abilitiles.

  7. Chocolates causes acne : FALSE

    The pimply faces of certain adolescents are not due to chocolate binges! Even a large consmption dose not make acne worse. Experiments have benn done in this area under medical control.

  8. Chocolate causes migraines : TRUE and FALSE

    According to certain studies, chocolate is suspected to be the main trigger of migraines in 19 to 25% of the cases. Other studies, just as noteworthy, conclude that it is impossible to determine with precision to what extent chocolate is responsabilie in this affair. It is a complete blur... Recent impressive chemical analyses tend to bring everyone to agreement. They suggest that chocolate never acts alone but only alongside other factors like hypoglycemia, alcohol, stress or indigestion due to another products. One of these factors added to certain elements in chocolate (theobromine, phenylethylamine, serotonin, and especially tyramine) could provoke the migriane.

  9. Chocolate causes allergies : FALSE

    Never has there been observed an elevation of the histamine level in the blood after eating chocolate. Of course, like any other food, it can be shown to read in certain sensitive subjects and bring on problems (asthma, rhinitis, or rash). Fortunately, cases are rare since chocolate intolerance is much less frequent than those to fish, seafood, milk, eggs and strawberries. Therefore, only persons who are prone to allergies would be affected and ever then, only 1,5% of these are susceptible.

  10. Chocolate os forbidden to diabetics : FALSE

    Chocolate provides only a very low glycemic peak. Diabetics must be aware of their total intake of glucides and preferably choose a dark chocolat that contains at least 60% cacao.

  11. "Light" chocolate has fewer calories : FALSE

    "light" chocolate has more calories than regular chocolate. ITS sugar level has been well diminished, but to compensate for te resultant lack of a binding element, the proportions of fat have benn increased. Glucides have only four calories per gram, whereas fats produce over twice as mucnh, nine per gram.

  12. Chocolate is very rich in magnesium : TRUE

    Dark chocolate well deserves its reputation of being a food rich in magnesium (300mg/100g). Milk chocolate has five times less than that, still an honest showing. As a point of reference, be advised that moset of the foods that have the reputation of being rich in magnesium have about the same content as that of milk chocolate. Chocolate, therefore, is very promising in this era where our daily requirements of magnesium are barely covered by what we eat.

  13. Chocoalte is as rich in potassium as a banana: TRUE

    The Potassium content of dark chocolate (535mg/100g) is about the same as that of a fresh banana (dried bananas, however, account for phenomenal quantities).

How to preserve chocolate

Those who resist the temptation to eat at once should be aware that cocoa and chocolate are small fragile things and that their life is not eternal. The sacrilege to absolutely avoid is the refrigerator, it's a torture chamber for the chocolate!

Chocolate has four notorious enemies: light, odours, humidity and unexpected variations in temperature. The only comfortable place for it is dark, well ventilated and dry (65% relative humidity and about 18 to 20°c). The ideal place to store chocolate is an airtight, either plastic or metal box, left at room temperature in your home.

If the chocolate is exposed to an atmosphere high in humidity or to excessive changes in temerature, it will turn white: first the sugar crystalizes on the surface, then the cocoa butter melts and floats to the surface. Theoretically this only alters the appearance and not the taste. What's more, if the chocolate is not kept from the light, it will go rancid. Finally, like all other gats, cocoa butter, willingly soaks up surrounding odours, particularly in cold environments. Therefore, the cohabitation of chocolate with javex or strong cheese is to be avoided. If you wish to try a new and exotic (though unmarketable) flabour, place a piece of chocolate next to an onion in the refrigerator. You'll taste the difference!

In the summertime, you will notice ofther to your displeasure that chocolate melts at 32°C. (So, event in the winter, carrying a bar in your pockets for 4 hours is not a good idea!). Resorting to a refrigerator is preferable while respecting a certain ritual to keep it from melting. In order to avoid ruining chocolate bars, it is important to keep them in a plastic container opaque and airtight and to remove the container from the refrigerator, keeping it closed, one hour before you plan to eat the contents. This way, not only will the chocolate be gently brought to room temperature, but protected from the humidity in the air, it will not take on condensation.

A good dark chocolate will keep up to a year and a half. Past this limit, it loses its aroma, but will still be perfect for desserts. Milk chocolate, pralines and filled chocolates are much more sensitives; at the end of eight months, say goodbye to flavour and smoothness! Industrial chocolate makers stuff their products with stabilisers and preservatives. None of those products are used in our production.